Growing old and all that stuff

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2004

Old? Who needs it? Who wants it? Certainly not me. I was happy. I was teaching. I made good money. I had many friends. My children were doing well at school. Nothing needed as far as I was concerned. Then one day I found myself in my 60s. Can’t be! I was young. I wasn’t old! I started counting and stopped quickly because what I was ending with was one word – old! Why me? I didn’t deserve to get this way. My mother was old. I wasn’t meant to be.

So for weeks I fought it. I heard people say grow old gracefully. What is gracefully old? Old is old. Don’t try to kid me into being an old lady.

The teacher’s room in any school is for meetings and planning. To this room I took my problem. Keep in mind these are my friends. When the awful word &uot;retirement&uot; was finally said out loud I got a chorus of &uot;Don’t be silly. Take an aspirin and get some rest.&uot; Age? &uot;You look 10 years younger than the number on your birth certificate, so stop the retirement nonsense.&uot; Guess they didn’t want to break in a new member. We were all quite close and socialized a lot.

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Finally it was a chore to wake each day and drive off to school and suddenly I realized I found my age beginning with a 7. How could I be? But I was. Thus began the parties, the presents, the cards, and the jokes. It was a fast time of celebrating. Can’t say it wasn’t fun and laughter.

Teachers celebrate this time to a great degree and the gifts given are great. But when it’s over and this phase must end, then you’re alone and definite plans must be made as to the way you’ll live. Nothing’s the same, but more importantly you hope you’ll stay healthy. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I had a stroke. Luckily speech and mind weren’t affected, but a retirement home was felt to be the best solution.

Prices were compared and I landed here. I call it the Hillcrest Hilton. There are a few things necessary to join this special sorority. You must have a white sweater – no pullover – a cardigan! White hair, love of bingo, a talkative nature and an inclination to play Uno or Spite and Malice. Just hope Alzheimer’s doesn’t find you. It’s around where people who get old live. Good advice – have great friends, get your hair done once a week, learn to play cards, gossip – if you were good at it in younger life, it comes in handy now. Relax. You can’t go back so settle in. It’s not great, but it’s not bad.

Florence Arena is a resident of Hillcrest Retirement Center and a regular News-Herald columnist.